Around 3 years ago, ISIS made its way into the Sinjar region of Iraq, which is predominantly populated by the country’s Yazidis, a small minority that has been targeted in particular by ISIS, which sees them as heretics.
The UN has designated ISIS’ actions against the Yazidis in Iraq as acts of genocide in an attempt to wipe out the ethno-religious group either by massacring or forcing assimilation upon its people.
Yazidi women, girls and children have been kidnapped en masse by ISIS militants. The women and girls have suffered intolerable physical and psychological pain as many of them were taken captive as sex slaves. Nevertheless, some Yazidi women have been provided a channel of resistance as they have been joining the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria, which have a women’s branch called the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ). These units are currently combatting ISIS in Syria in the campaign (Operation Wrath of Euphrates) to liberate the city of Raqqa, ISIS’ self-proclaimed capital in Syria.
Many of the children that were kidnapped were sold into slavery and became culturally assimilated into the new families that they joined. This has caused distress among certain Yazidi families who now have their children back due to the fact that they children have lost their mother tongue in many cases. In addition, several Yazidi children were forced to join the “Cubs of the Caliphate”, ISIS’ division of child soldiers.
The profound psychological suffering to which these people have been subjected requires special attention and care. Some mothers are suffering from malnutrition and are unable to feed their own babies. Almost all have vivid memories of the traumatic experiences that the Yazidis lived through while under the attack and occupation of ISIS in Sinjar.
The Yazidi population of Sinjar at the time of the ISIS rampage in 2014 was estimated to be 400,000. Within the first few days of the invasion, an estimated 2.5% of the Yazidi population was either killed or kidnapped.